March 12, 2010

Shrimp season short, but oh so sweet

— During their brief, weeks-long winter season, I like to eat the tiny, sweet Maine shrimp as often as is humanly possible.

They can now be bought peeled, but I think their flavor is best when they're cooked in their shells. And somehow, scoring the shrimp from a guy in a pick-up on the side of the road complete with a hand-lettered sign makes them taste all the sweeter.


Yield: Eight to 10 hors d'oeuvres servings; about six main-course servings.

Guests are invited to peel off the shrimps' papery skins themselves and dunk in a choice of two sauces. It's a delightfully messy proposition, so serve the shrimp this way at a less than formal occasion -- and provide plenty of napkins!

2 pounds fresh Maine shrimp in their shells (see note)

8 thin lemon slices


1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup water

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 teaspoons grated or minced fresh ginger

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 tablespoon snipped chives or finely chopped scallion tops


1/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup chili sauce (see note)

2 heaping tablespoons fresh or prepared horseradish (see note)

1 tablespoon finely chopped red or sweet white onion

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add shrimp and cook until they turn pink, 2 to 3 minutes. Have a large bowl of ice water at the ready. Drain shrimp into a colander and then transfer to the ice water. Drain again and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For Far Eastern sauce, combine brown sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and cook over medium heat until lightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, sesame oil and pepper. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate for up to three days. Sprinkle with chives before serving.

For All-American sauce, whisk together ketchup and chili sauce (or ketchup only) and horseradish. Stir in red onion and lemon juice. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to three days.

To serve, present shrimp on a platter garnished with lemon slices, and surround with small bowls of the sauces. Invite guests to peel their own shrimp and dunk.

NOTE: If you prefer, serve shrimp shelled, with toothpicks for dipping. If you don't have chili sauce, use half a cup of ketchup. Fresh horseradish is often available in supermarkets these days, but if you can't find it, prepared is fine.


Yield: Four servings

This pasta dish is garlicky, lemony and utterly delicious -- perfect for weekdays as well as for entertaining. The Angostura bitters adds an elusive exotic touch to the sauce. Serve with a basket of seeded semolina or other Italian bread and an arugula and red pepper salad.

6 tablespoons butter

6 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons minced shallots

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup bottled clam juice

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons Angostura bitters

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons lemon zest

1 pound linguine or other strand pasta

1 pound shelled Maine shrimp

1/2 cup chopped parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet, heat butter and oil. Add garlic and shallots and cook over medium heat for 1 minute. Add wine and clam juice, raise heat to high, and boil briskly until reduced by about one-third, about 5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes, bitters, lemon juice and lemon zest. (Can be made ahead and held at cool room temperature for an hour or two.)

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, reheat sauce. Add shrimp and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until they just turn pink, about 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Drain pasta, spoon the shrimp and sauce over, and serve.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently ''Dishing Up Maine'' (Storey Publishing 2006) and ''The New England Clam Shack Cookbook'' (Storey 2008). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula.

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